New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-seeded Villanova Wildcats could set a new program record on Friday as they take on the fourth-seeded Providence Friars at Madison Square Garden in the semifinals of the 2015 Big East Conference Tournament.
Villanova began its postseason with a bang, as it coasted to an 84-49 decision over Marquette. The 35-point margin of victory was the largest in Big East Tournament history for the Wildcats. They are now tied with the 2008-09 Final Four team for most wins in school history. Coach Jay Wright's team shot very well from the perimeter versus the Golden Eagles, connecting on 17-of-29 tries from behind the 3-point line. Josh Hart, the Big East Conference Sixth Man of the Year, provided a huge spark with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor.
The Friars appeared focused to repeat as the tournament champions on Thursday as they dominated St. John's en route to a 74-57 win over the Red Storm. The margin of victory was the largest for Providence in a Big East Tournament game since the 2002-03 campaign. Four different Friars scored in double-digits, including three players who recorded double-doubles. Senior forward LaDontae Henton led all players with 20 points and 12 boards, marking his 18th game of the season with at least 20 points.
The Wildcats won both regular season meetings between these teams. The Friars hung tough against the Wildcats and fell, 74-68, at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in the first matchup, but they were handed an 89-61 setback when they visited Villanova on Feb. 24.
Although Hart stole the show in the second round, Villanova will most likely turn to First-Team All-Big East guards Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono down the stretch. Hilliard, who led the team in the scoring column during the regular season with 14.2 ppg, provided 13 points and eight assists on Thursday. Arcidiacono (10.7 ppg, 3.6 apg), who was named Big East Co-Player of the Year earlier this week, had a quiet outing in the blowout win with five points and four helpers. In addition to his all-conference backcourt, Wright also has a solid front line highlighted by JayVaughn Pinkston (9.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Daniel Ochefu (9.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg). Hart (9.7 ppg), Dylan Ennis (9.8 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Kris Jenkins (6.5 ppg) are all going to play a key role for Villanova as it attempts to reach the title game.
The other two Friars to record double-doubles on Thursday were underclassmen. Freshman forward Ben Bentil tallied 14 points and a game-high 13 boards, while sophomore point guard Kris Dunn scored 17 points and handed out 11 assists. Dunn became the first player in league history to pace the conference in both assists (7.7) and steals (2.8) during conference play, while also contributing 15.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per outing. Henton led the conference in scoring with 20.1 ppg and also pulled down 6.3 rpg.